If the reports are true, Apple ($AAPL) will be testing out a new strategy for its all-important fall hardware event. Traditionally, this year would be what's come to be known in Apple parlance as a "mid-cycle" upgrade year: some feature and processor refreshing, but no major overhauls of its core iPhone, iPad, and MacBook lines.
But reading the tea leaves from a Bloomberg report published Thursday, Apple's plans this year go further than what would be typical of a mid-cycle refresh.
In addition to iPad and MacBook refreshes, Apple plans to unveil three new iPhones, according to Bloomberg, including a "Pro" line to replace the XS. The upgraded iPhone Pro will reportedly include a major overhaul to the camera to include a third, wide-angle sensor that will essentially take three photos and use A.I. to stitch them together into one image. Samsung has made huge strides in its phone camera tech, and the Galaxy S10's ultrawide camera is increasingly seen as the smartphone camera to beat.
The new line of iPhones are said to also include reverse wireless charging, enhanced Face ID, increased water-resistance, faster chips for A.R. ー though no 5G capability.
Dan Ives, managing director of equity research for Wedbush Securities and a full-time Apple watcher, told Cheddar that Apple is leaning into the mid-upgrade cycle in a bid to offer just enough new features to convince customers who may be on the fence about upgrading to pull the trigger.
"Apple realizes there's 350 million iPhones in upgrade opportunity," Ives said. "That's what the focus is going to be."
After a disastrous holiday quarter last year, a successful fall hardware launch needs to show investors that Apple is still capable of driving demand for iPhone even in off years, especially overseas. Ives said he expects Apple could sell 75 million to 80 million new iPhones in the first few months, but it will be dependent on China, which accounts for 20 percent of the iPhone upgrade market.
"This will not be successful if iPhone demand in China has not shown growth," he said.
Apple is taking a calculated risk by not waiting until 2020, when it has said it expects to be able to provide 5G technology in new devices. The hope, according to Ives, is that the average iPhone user, who hasn't purchased a new device in three years, will be swayed by the camera technology and faster processor that are expected to be revealed in the next month. "I do not believe many can wait until 5G," Ives said.
It will be a busy fall for the Cupertino-based company. Apple's subscription streaming service TV+, rumored to be priced at $10/month, is also expected to launch before the holidays. Ives is more bullish than some on the success of TV+, predicting it could reach 100 million consumers in three to four years. "But they're going to need more content," he said. "They significantly have to step up their game." Ives predicts Apple will ink major acquisition deals with big studios in the coming years when it becomes apparent it can't possibly produce enough high-end content on its own to catch up to Disney, HBO, or Netflix.